Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)

The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) was awarded to officers, and since 1993 other ranks of the British Merchant Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and British Armed Forces and officers of the Commonwealth.

The award was originally established in 28th June, 1901 by King Edward to "recognize meritorious or distinguished services before the enemy" and known as the Conspicuous Service Cross and awarded to Warrant and subordinates officers of the Royal Navy who were eligible for the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). In October 1914 it was renamed the Distinguished Service Cross and eligibility extended to all naval officers (commissioned and warrant) below the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Bars for the performance of further acts of gallantry meriting the award were authorised in 1916. In 1931 the award was made available to members of the Merchant Navy and in 1940 eligibility was further extended to non-naval personnel (British Army and Royal Air Force) serving aboard a British vessel.

A result of a review of gallantry awards in 1993 as part of the drive to remove distinctions of rank in awards for bravery, the Distinguished Service Medal, formerly the third level decoration for ratings, has been discontinued. The DSC now serves as the third level award for gallantry at sea for all ranks.

The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), which may be awarded posthumously, is granted in recognition of "... gallantry during active operations against the enemy at sea."


Materials:   The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issue in bronze versions, mainly to Indian non-combatants.  The majority of the British campaign awards are circular, usually 36mm in diameter.

Ribbons:    Medals are worn suspended from their own specific ribbons. These were first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the nineteenth century developed.  Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the equal stripes of the ‘1939 to 1945 Star,’ for example, are dark blue to represent the service of the Royal and Merchant Navies, red, to represent that of the Armies and light blue to represent that of Air Forces.

Ribbon width can vary slightly though it is generally 32mm wide.

Ribbon – White centre flaked by dark blue

Distinguished Service Cross ribbon
Distinguished Service Cross ribbon

Suspender - Ring

Type – Military decoration.

Eligibility – British, (formerly) Commonwealth forces

Awarded for – gallantry during active operations against the enemy

Established – 15th June, 1901 (as Conspicuous Service Cross), renamed Distinguished Service Cross Oct 1914

Post Nominal Letters – CSC, or DSC

Naming – None

Description – The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) has a plain silver cross with rounded edges. The obverse, suspended by a ring has a circular centre within which can be seen the Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch at the time of award. From 1940 year of issue has been engraved on lower limb of cross. The reverse is plain apart from the hallmark and the ribbon is attached via a hall-marked silver ring.

This guide will help you through all the parts and descriptions of military medals


London Gazette awards

< gov.uk/medals-campaigns-descriptions-and-eligibility>

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